Whenever you are moving into a front rack position there are a lot of anatomical considerations in play,and having the proper combination of stability and mobility is a must for solid athletic performance to prevent injury. Good thoracic extension, rib positioning, scapular retraction, shoulder flexion/external rotation, triceps length, elbow flexion, and wrist extension all have to come together nicely – sounds easy right? One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “What mobility drill to I need to do to improve ___________?”. However, that leaves out a huge part of being mobile: being stable.
A general principle that I feel like almost always applies: proximal stability improves distal mobility. So if you are constantly trying to work on shoulder/elbow/wrist mobility without results, consider taking a look at your proximal stability. There are plenty of tests out there to help you assess proper trunk stability; let me know if you need help with that. Lastly, before getting into a few keys to look at, let’s discuss one last thought: I believe painful issues are best addressed clinically by a qualified medical professional. There are times that weakness/tightness/stiffness/difficulties can be safely fixed with good coaches like we have at Bluegrass, or with self-directed activities. But if you are in pain or struggling and not getting better, go see a PT.
1. Trunk Considerations: to get into the upper extremity positions required for a font rack, you
must have good scapular stability in retraction and thoracic extension mobility. One of the best
foam roller movements is to lay with the roller perpendicular to your spine and perform
combination rolling/extension movements. I also love getting on your hands and knees and
rotating or doing the cat/camel. If struggling with scapular stability, add some ring rows,
batwing holds, famer’s carries, or one of my favorite all time exercises: loaded Turkish get-ups.
3 sets of 6-10 reps at a weight that allows for good form but no more than 12 consecutive reps
2. Shoulder: the shoulder has to be able to flex while in an externally rotated position. Therefore,
any muscles that internally rotate or extend the shoulder being tight can prevent a good front
rack. Anatomically, the humeral head has to be able to roll posterior/superior while gliding
anterior/inferior to avoid impingement. This can be a fairly complex assessment on an
individualized basis, if you are struggling with this see a physical therapist (Bluegrass athletes
talk to me and we can set up an assessment and come up with a plan). One nice and gentle
stretch that I really like to address some of the potential soft tissue restrictions is to kneel, place
elbows up on a bench/box, and drop your face and chest towards the ground. Breathe into the
stretch and work on nice diaphragm breathing in that position.
3. Wrist: Loading up our wrists with heavy weight in full extension can easily lead to problems if
we don’t have adequate wrist extension range-of- motion. There are 2 primary drivers that can
possibly restrict wrist extension, and a few secondary issues. Looking at the muscle versus joint
considerations, either tight wrist flexor musculature or a decreased palmar glide in the proximal
row of carpal bones can restrict the necessary front rack positioning.
a. Wrist flexor musculature stretch: the primary wrist flexors (flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor
carpi radialis, flexor digitorum superficialis) all cross the elbow joint. I generally prefer
to preposition the smaller joint (wrist) and then stretch across the larger joint (elbow),
because that will allow for a safer stretch that puts more stress across the actual muscle
belly fibers. Start by holding your wrist and all fingers in full extension, palm up, with
the elbow bent, then gently straighten the elbow. You’ll feel a much more effective
stretch than the traditional straight elbow and pull the wrist up. Try them both and
you'll see what I mean.
b. Mobilizing the carpal bones: by far my favorite way to do this is with a band locked
around the dorsal (back) of the wrist distal to the radius/ulna (towards the fingers from
the big bump on the back of the wrist), with your palm on the ground, then move the
forearm back and forth into further closed-chain wrist extension.
We can review all of these tests and fixes at the next Bluegrass mobility clinic in April. Otherwise, if
anybody has any further questions let me know!